There are few positions in sports as pressure-packed as that of World Cup manager. Here is a look at the 32 men privileged with that pressure heading into the start of the tournament in just three weeks time.
Stanislav Cherchesov, Russia
The man tasked with leading the home nation this summer? Not a foreign emissary like Guus Hiddink or Fabio Capello, not the popular former CSKA coach Leonoid Slutsky, but the comparatively underwhelming 54-year-old Stanislav Cherchesov.
Cherchesov, a former goalkeeper whose last job was in Polish football with Leiga Warsaw, is regarded coolly in Russia. He’s emphasized hard work and transition play, but friendly results have been terrible and the squad is bereft of talent.
Juan Antonio Pizzi, Saudi Arabia
With money no object, and patience in short supply, the Saudis have rifled through three managers in the last year. Former Netherlands coach Bert Van Marwijk qualified the team and then left after clashing with the FA, Edgardo Bauza had the job for two months, and then Pizzi – who failed to qualify Chile – was appointed.
The Argentina-born has a big job in front of him. He’s only been in charge for some six months, and the upheaval of the last year has taken its toll on the almost entirely domestically based team. Expectations are low.
Héctor Cúper, Egypt
The Argentinian Cúper took the Egypt job in 2015, and his timing couldn’t have been much better: two years later, thanks in very large part to Mohammad Salah, the Pharaohs qualified for the first World Cup in 28 years.
Cúper’s résumé includes stops at Valencia and Inter Milan, and he’s known as a fairly conservative coach. He and his team will go as far in this tournament as Salah can take them.
Óscar Tabárez, Uruguay
The oracle of modern Uruguayan football, Tabárez has been in charge of the national team for the last twelve years and is preparing to lead his country into the World Cup finals for the fourth time.
His hold over the program cannot be overstated. Of Uruguay’s ten most-capped players, all ten played for the man and eight for the majority of their national team careers. With a strong team and a weak group, expectations are high for Russia.
Fernando Santos, Portugal
His teams don’t play particularly enjoyable football, but Fernando Santos is a dead-eye tournament coach. He got Greece to within a penalty shootout of the quarterfinals at the 2014 World Cup, and then took an ordinary Portugal side all the way to glory in France at Euro 2016.